Mich. House passes bills to change medical pot law #MichLMLaw #TellUsDetroit

By JEFF KAROUB

Associated Press

LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan House on Thursday passed a package of bills aimed at clarifying the state’s voter-approved law allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes.


The House passed four bills – including the first legislation that would amend the 2008 law – and they now go to the Senate.

One bill seeks to better define the type of doctor-patient relationship needed before medical marijuana use could be certified. Another includes requirements for photographs to be included on identification cards that people certified to use medical marijuana must carry. The legislation also calls for creating a 15-member panel of physicians and others to review petitions requesting to add medical conditions to the list for which the use of marijuana is approved.

Backers have argued the 2008 law wasn’t clear and contained loopholes. Critics say the proposed changes might make the drug harder to get.

Several medical marijuana advocacy groups oppose the bills or voiced concerns while they worked their way through committee. The Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union supported the bill that aims to better define the type of doctor-patient relationship and is neutral on the others. The Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan supported the entire package.

Ari Adler, spokesman for House Speaker Jase Bolger, said the package went through “a lot of work and changes over time” and was a bipartisan effort. The bills, Adler said, bring “some order to the chaos caused by the initial medical marijuana referendum.”

Because the voter-approved medical marijuana law is part of the state constitution, the House needed to approve two of the bills that specifically amended the law by a three-quarters majority of its members.

Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, cast a no vote but acknowledged that the bill package has some positive attributes. Among them, he said, was a Democratic amendment added this week that allows criminal defendants to say they are a medical marijuana user in court provided they comply with the law. Some patients have been forbidden from mentioning they are a medical marijuana user in certain legal cases.

Irwin said House members who crafted the bills “did not succumb to some of the `reefer madness’ that can accompany this issue,” but he felt the resulting bills ultimately went too far.

“The overall current is to add additional restrictions to patients, caregivers and doctors,” he said. “It’s contrary to what the voters approved overwhelmingly a couple of years ago.”

Redford Township Democratic Rep. Phil Cavanagh, who sponsored one of the bills, said the goal was “to at least try to clarify what the voters had in mind and to codify that.”

“As most tough issues, you’re never going to appease everyone,” he said. “That is why I have confidence everyone is a little disappointed in this language … yet I believe it is a good compromise.”

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